Billy Graham died. And I’ve seen several posts in my Facebook feed saying, in effect, “Good riddance. The world is better without Billy Graham in it.”
I don’t know very much about Billy Graham, but I’m curious about this instinct to declare judgment on his life. How would one know whether Billy Graham had a net positive or net negative impact on the world?
The man had five kids, 19 grandchildren, and presumably even more great-grandchildren. What impact will all of them have on the world? Will it be net positive or net negative? He was a counselor to presidents of both parties and a minister to millions of people. How could we possibly know what effect he had on public policy or the lives of those who listened to his sermons?
He also said some very ugly, anti-Semitic things in telephone call with Richard Nixon over 40 years ago. And he once claimed that AIDS might be a form of punishment inflicted on the gay community by God. Then he apologized — seemingly sincerely — for both of those statements.
What’s interesting to me is how arrogant one would have to be to claim that “the world is better off” when someone dies, especially if you’ve never met that person. In effect, you’re casting yourself in the role of God, declaring who goes to heaven and who goes to hell.
But the people saying these things are non-religious and present themselves as the opposite of arrogant.